I’ve been playing around with Google Wave a bit lately – in case you haven’t heard, it’s Google’s latest entry into the Social Network wars. And there is a war on, just so you know. Facebook is winning, for now, Twitter isn’t, though everyone can’t stop talking about it, and everyone else wants to get that kind of market share because surely that’s where all the money is at.
But so what? Let’s get Wavey. Wave is a strange amalgam of E-mail and instant messaging – two things Google has always, in my opinion, dominated at. Gmail and Gtalk run the way every mail and IM client should, to the point everyone else should just stop trying.
So Google Wave capitalizes on these things by letting users create a group conversation: I post a video with an opinion of it, and the people in my circle read it. They add in pictures or links in response, and I respond back with something else…
So it isn’t just e-mail and IM, it’s sort of a closed FriendFeed river where everything within the wave is related. So it’s also got a bit of bulletin board system DNA in it.
A strange feature is the ability to play back the conversation one step at a time. I’m not entirely sure why this is an important feature to have, though – all it does is relieve me of the responsibility to scroll down.
They tried to add in some simple toys, like simple polls, widgets, and you can save Google SERPs to it if you want to. But these feel a bit forced, like they knew they needed to add something to it but weren’t sure what.
One thing that would make this spectacular – and I’m surprised it isn’t included – is the ability to publish a stream in the making. Or maybe that’s a good thing? If your friend admits to robbing a liquor store, and you think that’s so hardcore you just HAVE to put it up on their blog…. not good.
Finally, I’m not a big fan of the inability to create conversations with people unless they’re already in my Gmail contact list. It makes it difficult to hear new voices, which is really the beauty of social media – you can hear from people you wouldn’t necessarily hear from. It’s the reason I’ve been such a fan of Friendfeed. If someone looks randomly cool, I’ll follow them and be relatively sure that someday they’ll post something that’s so neat I need to pass it around. But this is a a lot like e-mail anyway, as I’ve said. Google Wave is Friendfeed like, but it’s supposed to exist in a closed environment.
If you’re okay with that, it certainly works.
So I do like where they’re going with this so far. I just hope this is a true Beta, not a Google Beta. A true Beta means people are using it, and they are taking suggestions on how to make it better as things go along. A Google Beta is when Google releases something they think is finished, just very slowly. After all, Gmail is apparently still in Beta, and they’ve only made a couple of minor changes since I’ve been using it.
So I guess we’ll just have to see where this is going.